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The Pennsylvania Prepper’s Guide

Avatar for James Walton James Walton  |  Updated: December 14, 2019
The Pennsylvania Prepper’s Guide

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While I spent most of my years in the rolling valleys and sprawling city of Southeastern Pennsylvania, this massive state with a radical diversity of lifestyle and population is an interesting prospect.

It’s one of the biggest players in the birth of the nation and gave way to one of the nation’s largest cities in Philadelphia. 

Many historical battles were fought in both the revolution and the civil war in Pennsylvania but as of late it has become a densely populated state who’s western industry-based economy has all but left as the eastern portion of the state continues to grow. 

As the 5th most populous state in the nation Pennsylvania can be a scary proposition for any prepper. 

THE QUESTION: Is Pennsylvania a popular place for preppers?

State Population: 12,807,060

Land Mass in Square Miles: 44,742.700

Median Household Income: $56,951

Regions: Appalachian, Major Metropolitan, and Agricultural

Greatest Threats: High Population Density, Nuclear Power Plants, Army Bases, Mass Migration, Cold Weather Threats

High Population Density

While many preppers harp about population density, its important to quantify that. You know that the more people who are unprepared in an area the more chaos will come. It’s prepping 101.

Still, what does that disparity look like by the numbers?

I want to give you my example. Its pulled from my own life. I live in Richmond, Virginia. The population is just over 220,000 people. Its a city in the south and one of the biggest in the state.


I grew up in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Population: over 550,000! This is outside of Philadelphia. It’s important to understand what population density looks like by the numbers.

No state is equipped to control or provide for that many people in one area. It’s just not feasible. Before you get into things like EMP, terrorism, natural catastrophe, preppers should most be aware of the sheer chaos from such a high population.

Nuclear Power Plants

Inherently, there isn’t a lot wrong with generating nuclear power. It’s a well-practiced process, there are great procedures in place and it takes lots of human error to blow them up! i.e. Chernobyl.

However, in 1979, on Three Mile Island there was aa partial meltdown of reactor number two. To date, this is the greatest nuclear disaster in the nation’s history.

This was 1979 so the truth about the effects of that meltdown are all garbled. Activists claim it wreaked havoc on wildlife while those from the state said there was no evidence.

Bottom Line: Pennsylvania has 5 nuclear power stations generating energy in the state. While it’s been many years since the accident if the state faces an attack, serious natural disaster or other radical changes in societal and environmental stability, these could be a serious problem.

Military Bases

Look, most states have military bases. Pennsylvania is no different. There are 11 military installations in the eastern and central parts of the state. From barracks to depots to recruiting offices.

These bases are not inherently a risk. In some sense, they could be an asset. Or they could be filled with people who may have to become temporary oppressors of freedom.

Of course, military installations will be targets in terrorism and war. That is something to consider when you are looking for the best places to settle in PA.

Mass Migration

As preppers, we don’t consider migration as a threat very often. However, mass migrations are part of human history. In fact, the expansion of much of our nation was a product of mass migration.

Some mass migrations are brought on by disaster or despotism. We are watching a mass migration at our southern border.

The northeast is the most densely populated part of the nation. Between New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut There are 39 million people who could migrate south if there were some kind of disaster that affected the areas north of Pennsylvania.

That nice little mountain town in the central part of the state would look a lot different with a million more people looking for shelter and food.

Cold Weather Threats

Every year it snows all over the state. In some areas, it snows more than others but it snows every year. All my life I have watched people rush to the store for snow shovels, salt, bread and milk days before the snow would hit.

No one was ever prepared for the snow. This snow came every year!

A winter in the northeast, without power, in modern homes without fireplaces or wood stoves would be a big problem. It gets cold for a long time and the snow does not go away.

As a prepper, you would have to be prepared for serious cold and prolonged weather threats in the state of Pennsylvania.


Pennsylvania has its hand in some pretty interesting resources that leave the nation as exports. There are also many natural resources to consider as well.


Pennsylvania is a coal-producing region and also exports propane. Propane is a cold-weather prepper’s best friend and with the shortage of propane in Canada right now, we are reminded of its importance!

Another interesting import that comes from Pennsylvania, The number 2 export, is categorized as VACCINES FOR HUMAN MEDICINE.

It’s very interesting to know the commodities and resources of a state and Pennsylvanian has some may raise the eyebrows of many preppers.

Natural Resources

Despite its sprawling cities, there are vast acres of land that are dense with trees and wildlife.


I spent the formative years of my life in a beat-up car, with Dad, scouting trout fishing river and streams. Trout fishing was the greatest poor man’s hack that you could pull off.

There was hardly any recurring expense after the initial investment and we hung out nearly every weekend from the time I was 7 years old till about 13

Just outside of the suburbs there are deep forests that are filled with deer and even bear! My sister was just telling me about a bear in Delaware County the other night on the phone.

Heating the home with wood, putting fish and meat on the table will all be a possibility in Pennsylvania. Now it will not be a long term one but you will have access to the game in the beginning.


Chasing down those browns and rainbows made me hyper-aware of the many creeks and streams in the eastern portion of the state. That said, the western part of the state built its biggest city on 3 rivers. These are the Alleghany, the Ohio and the Monogahela

No shortage of water in Pennsylvania.


I had to move to Virginia to understand the disparity in culture and demographics that exist in the state of Pennsylvania.

My niece Mallory is an all-star. She is in the marching band, which is way more impressive than you ever realized, and she is one of the smartest girls in her school. My old high school. I hated my school but I wear a Marching Band shirt from that school because of her.

I grew up in the row homes of a Philly suburb. BROKE!

Wearing my shirt I was walking through a parking lot when I was stopped by a middle-aged woman who was put together and smelled like an expensive perfume.

She looked at me wide-eyed and enthusiastic.

“Did you go to Chichester?”

I did but not the one she was referring to. I explained that it was a mixup and I went to the broke Chichester in Pennsylvania.

“Oh! Like Pennsytuckey?”

She laughed as she walked off and I was left to sit there and ponder the situation.

Chester County is one of the richest counties in the nation. Then there is North Philadelphia. It’s like a war zone.

So, you have a radical disparity of income that appears in several places across the state, mostly in the edges of the cities. That’s pretty common. Further out you have a more conservative working middle class who is watching the work dry up underfoot.

In the Western part of the state job loss and opioids have led to a jump in suicides and disparity amongst the citizens.

In recent history, the culture of the state has rarely reflected the people in office. Just as the state government has rarely reflected the desires of the people.

Pennsylvania is also the starting point of that hyper-speed and lack of patience that is synonymous with the North. Things move fast up there and you hear about it if you slow down.

Prepper Laws

The homesteading effort is alive and well in Pennsylvania. In the Eastern part of the state horses are a very big part of the culture and some of the most successful racehorses are bred in places like Chester County.

Everything changes when it comes to proximity. The closer you get to these highly populated areas the harder it will be to do a number of things.

Keeping chickens, carrying weapons and pushing towards that lifestyle of self-reliance and independence gets a lot more complicated.

The HOAs in some of these areas can be particularly tyrannical. They are truly oppressive and some people have been excoriated for things like Christmas lights and even certain flags!

When it comes to prepper laws, Pennsylvania is a tale of two cities or maybe two regions. You are going to be shackled if you live in these highly populated areas. You will be left to the whims of State and Federal aid in a disaster.

In the rural parts of the state, there will be fewer laws on the books and less police to enforce them. Do with that information what you will.

It’s probably also worth noting that new laws that infringe on our rights will have less of a likelihood of being enforced in these rural areas of the state.


A nuclear emergency, mass migration or unforeseen catastrophe could thrust you from your location. Even if you find Pennsylvania appealing and settle in the less populated foothills of the state, you should have a plan of retreat.

In Pennsylvania, you have some pretty ugly options but not all of them.

New York

New York is your retreat option to the north but it suffers from many of the same ailments as Pennsylvania. Most of the laws geared towards self-defense are abysmal and the weather is worse in the winter.

New Jersey

Unless you are escaping to the coast for some reason, forget about Jersey. The one exception is the agricultural land that could offer a food source if its that time of year.


A sliver of a northern state, Delaware behaves like most northern states. The laws and high population density in the northern part of the state are a problem.

If you follow the state to the coast it can get a little more desolate and the culture more receptive to preppers.


Western Pennsylvanians are going to head to the west or to the south if things get untenable in their area. A State like Ohio is going to welcome you with open arms, in most cases.

It’s a great state for the outdoorsman and homesteader. Preppers would fit right in.

West Virginia

The Mountains and eastern valleys of West Virginia are not just a prepper’s paradise but they are also stuffed with perks and resources.

For a Virginian like me, I often find myself drooling over land on the VA and West VA border.

Someday I might be clicking keys in those mountains.


There is a lot of land that could be inhabited by preppers in Pennsylvania. The state is large but the population is, too! Some giant cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are so packed with people and problems that it makes me nervous about what would happen in an SHTF situation.

The land offers plenty of freshwater and access to game in the less populated areas. Of course, with a massive population fishing and hunting for food, in a crisis, that could change in a hurry.

Pennsylvania was a great place to grow up. I had a lot of fun in that state. However, the threat potential is very high and even in good times, I took my life in my own hands bombing around a place like Philly.

Your ability to get out of dodge is also hampered if you are traveling north or east.

I am certain there are some honey holes in Pennsylvania where being a prepper would work out just fine. For the majority of preppers, I think Pennsylvania is too highly populated and surrounded by more problems than one would want to take on.

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9 Responses to “The Pennsylvania Prepper’s Guide”

  1. Great article. Pop density is often overlooked. Preppers could learn a lot from the Amish and the Mennonites, often called the Pennsylvania Dutch. The local stores sell many handtools for the kitchen and garden.

  2. I live in NW Pa, along Lake Erie. Prepping-wise, I figure water is not going to be a big issue. In this county, we have about 250 to 300,000 people with a third in the city that I am near but not in. I do plan to bug-in as bugging out presents more of a logistical problem as to where to go to. Head west and you run into the Cleveland metro area. Cleveland proper is less than 90 miles away. East is, well, New York. Follow close to the lake you hit the Buffalo metro and south is Pittsburgh. LOL, when asked who was my football team, I always answered that it was the same as whoever was buying the beer! Food-wise, when you get away from the city, it becomes rural very rapidly, although my community is growing into a bedroom community for the city. It is still possible though, to buy acreage and farm. That is what I want to do. We don’t seem to have HOAs with asinine rules, but it pays to ask before you buy because they can be out there. The further away from the lake you go, the less dense the housing becomes and the hunting gets easier to do. Closer to the lake, legal hunting requires a bow in many cases.

    I guess this article highlighted some of the problems us Pennsyltuckians have for prepping, but I do not know where I would go. My roots run pretty deep where I am at and I comment often that the worse natural disaster I need to put up with is a snowstorm and being on the south side of the lake means it is often overcast and poor for solar power generation. despite the glum outlook presented by the article, I still like my chances for SHTF right where I am at. 50 years from now might be different, but I will be gone from this world.

    • The advantage of being in Erie Co. is that you’re so isolated from the rest of the state. The likelihood of a mass exodus from, say, Philly. trying to relocate in the erie area is remote. (pun intended).

    • The other advantage of Erie is that, if you can arrange transportation, you’re just across lake erie from a fairly rural and prime agricultural part of canada!

  3. Great article-very informative. Have you considered presenting this information for additional states- maybe Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon? Thanks for your dedication to the website and all of us readers.

  4. Great informative article on Pennsylvania! Would like to see more of this type of article on each state. Well written!
    I live in Mississippi where we have low population density, one nuclear plant, floods, occasional ice and snow, oppressive heat and humidity, low income, hurricanes and tornadoes, and, and, and corruption in all levels of government.
    I think I’ll stay here!

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